The railroad line through Fabens was built by Southern Development Company, which was owned by SouthernPacific. The coming of the railroad had brought a few humble dwellings to our location, for this was a watering station. It was the custom in those early days to name railroad stops for officials of the railroad. Therefore, our town was given the name FABENS in honor of Mr. George Wilson Fabens, assistant land commissioner for the Southern Pacific Lines in Texas and Louisiana.
Fabens didn't begin to grow until 1910. At that time the county road was finished and soon paved as State Highway No. 1. The bridge across the Rio Grande River was built in 1910. In 1913 the O'Donnell Inn (then called Island Inn), a depot and the Cobos School were all built.
The TEXAS HANDBOOK, Vol. 1 says, "As part of the San Elizario grant, the site (Fabens) was sold to Sabas Grijalva and Diego Loya, who in turn, sold it to E. S. Newman in 1887, excluding the right-of-way already given to the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railroad. The townsite was laid out in 1911, but the main development was by the Fabens Townsite and Improvement Company, which acquired ownership in 1913."
The first school location in Fabens was a building in the 300 blocks of West Main. That building no longer stands. Mrs. J.M. Escajeda, at the time the oldest living alumni at the time, told us she once attended school there. At that time there was no paved road. Cattle roamed the area and frightened the children on their way to school. During the early years, Latin-American and Anglo children did not attend school together. For a time the Anglos were taught good "old' reading, 'writing, and 'arithmetic" in a tent which was pitched at the corner of Fabens and Camp Streets, about where the First Baptist Church stands.
The school year of 1923-1924 saw Fabens with three schools. A Mexican primary school of three grades and three teachers with attendance passing the one hundred mark, and an Anglo school of eight grades with five teachers and one hundred and twenty-five as the highest attendance. A school on the island had about 75 students. Fabens and Island school consolidated beginning with the year 1924-1925.
In 1927 a new school was built. All pupils except those who could not speak English attended this school. Non-English speaking pupils continued using the Cobos School until it was demolished to make way for the new High School which was erected in 1947. Non-English speaking students were moved to the old CC Camp building, which the School District had acquired. Fabens also had a school for Black students located at CC Camp. This camp was here during the depression years of 1936-1939. When Black students finished grade school they were bused to El Paso to attend Douglass High School. In the fall of 1961, all the Black students were transferred to the various other buildings of our school district.
The next building in our school district was the Primary, built-in 1953. This was later named Risinger Primary and now is the David Sublosky Head Start Early Childhood Center. In 1963 Johanna O'Donnell Elementary was built housing 4thand 5th grades. The O’Donnell has since moved to the old high school since a new High School was completed on G Avenue NE in December 1988. Students began classes in January 1989. Our latest new addition is our Middle School which was built in 1999. With the move of the 4th and 5th grades to the ‘old’ High School completed, the Cotton Valley Early College H.S. has moved into the building previously known as the O’Donnell 4th.
This brief history was researched and written by Fabens High School students, 1999.